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October 30, 2011 11:34 AM   Subscribe

After a few months of looking, I've found another research-related job at my university. Tell me what doors it will open to me that weren't open already.

For the past three years (and then some) I've been working as a research assistant at a university-affiliated research place, primarily working on applied projects in cognitive psychology and neuroscience. I've been unable to get a federal clearance, so no matter how well I performed, I would have been removed from my position (see 1, 2).

Two weeks ago I got an offer to work at the university's newly-constructed neuroimaging center. I couldn't say no.

I'm happy to have a job, but I'm working through some ambivalent feelings.

The imaging center is brand-new and has very few staff members. I was assured that I'd have opportunities to become an indispensable jack of all trades, help a host of varied projects, and so on. That's an improvement on my current position, which has taught me a great deal of research and tech skills, but eventually settled into a pattern that I don't really enjoy.

On the other hand, my limited research shows that clinical MR tech is a technical, but relatively low-skilled job. It requires technical-school training and doesn't ask for a college degree (yet). It is the pinnacle of rote repetition. It is prone to labor oversupply and is not intellectually stimulating.

I've met a number of research-center MR techs before and can happily report that techs at research centers are different from clinical techs. They're a lot more like research assistants — like me!

But it deflates me a little to think that this is another time-biding job that doesn't lead to anything I can imagine myself doing.

  • Have I misrepresented clinical MR technologists above? Is it actually a better, funner, more stimulating job than I've gathered?
  • How valuable could this work experience be? Is it something that could let me evolve into, say, a lab manager or some such? Are there other positions this might lead to?
Thanks to all.
posted by Nomyte to Work & Money (1 answer total)
From your previous posts it sounds like you are already qualified to be a lab manager in any lab at a university department in the social sciences, baring any weird requirements for a Master's degree or something. I know other lab managers, you sound equal to any of them.

I also know a bit about the staffing of our imaging center here at UT Austin. We have a full-time PhD physicist who is specialized in MRI, and two to three support staff who handle billing and scheduling of scan time, maintaining the equipment and facility, and providing training and coordination for researchers who want to use it. They are effectively RAs/lab managers, but alot of their work is maybe more "concierge service" for other researchers than your current job. They are not at all the same as clinical MR techs in a hospital but I wouldn't say their jobs are particularly high skill either. I know way more repetitive and soul crushing jobs than theirs; it's not just button pressing all day.

I'd say being in an MR center is valuable for your resume if you want to keep working in psychology and neuroscience. Your experience may not compare to the ones I've heard of, I don't know. Try it, see how it goes.

From there, you could possibly move into other administrative positions in the social/life sciences at your university, you could be a lab manager, you could work for a company doing clinical trials research, you might be able to fill other roles that are similar in a drug company. There may also be positions in government like at the National Institutes of Health labs that you would qualify for, and that's in DC, too. Since it seems like that's where you are from your profile, definitely explore that direction since I don't know all the possibilities in government. Ask colleagues what other orgs in town need research support staff; I bet there are more if you don't constrain it to neuroscince/cog sci. In all these cases there will be positions as PI or the equivalent that are only filled by people with PhDs, but there is always a need for some support staff.
posted by slow graffiti at 4:24 PM on October 30, 2011

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